by TaKaylla L. Gordon

Oh my gosh! Where do I start this? I guess I didn't make good choices. I have to believe that this is what it all boils down to. How else can I explain approaching 45 years old, a college graduate with some extra years thrown in for good measure, and I'm living with my little sister? I live in a neighborhood that is so disrespectful and the source of much discussion in the news. If I just mention to acquaintances where I live, a look of pity covers their faces and they are filled with the need to say something redeeming about it like, "Oh, I hear people talk about that area so negatively when it's really not that bad." "Yes, it is," I say in my mind. It's filled with ignorant, uneducated, lazy ass people lacking hope and direction. But I don't say that. I usually just nod my head to make them feel better, to let them off the hook for feeling bad that I live in one of the highest crime and murder areas of the city. I give them their comfort back and I soak up the pity and the guilt and turn it inward where I tend to house most unpleasant things.

Sure, I know there are diamonds in these rough streets and secretly I embrace them and root them on because they are rare. Not everyone who lives here is living foul and misguided. There is hope but, like seedlings in the dirt, it requires nourishment and care to grow and flourish, but until then, I watch my back.

Shit! How did I get here? Not just in this room of my sister's place, rather to this station in my life. My theory; I didn't make good choices. I didn't connect the dots correctly in my twenties. I had the blinders of youth covering my eyes. I was too busy trying to be young and free and that kept me from being smart and responsible, even though I prided myself in falling into consciousness early. I tried to think deeply and subscribe to social constructs of the times, searching out where we as Black people fit into the mix. The answers were always easy--we were at the bottom.

Back then, I wanted to rebel. I listened to anyone that took issue with the post slavery dynamics of African Americans and who spoke of change. Even the music I listened to changed. It was no longer enough to groove along with a fat bass line and mindless prattle. The words. I needed the words. The right words to fill me, inspire me, uplift and celebrate who I was and the direction I wanted to go. I was a Proud Black Woman with Purpose. I didn't beat my chest or raise my fist in the air, well maybe I did on one or two occasions, I don't rightly know. I was riding a wave that I was certain would take me to the next level and from there things would only get better.

On the cusp of my thirties, a new feeling overtook my spirit, it was fear. I have ridden the back of that emotion right into my forties, and let me tell you, I'm exhausted. But let me go back. It was in my thirties when life came knocking on my door, but I wasn't ready, so it barged on in without permission. Life, real life required things of me that I couldn't deliver. It wanted me to get serious and put away lofty thoughts and concepts that, really, up until now, I had only been playing at--just scratching the surface, going from one idea to the next. I never committed to anything, I didn't have to. I was in my twenties then.

But now in my thirties, life required me to shut the fuck up and show and prove myself. And I failed time and time again. I realized that my twenties were spent selling wolf tickets with nothing to back it up but some hot air and a yielding spine. Basically, I was blowing in the breeze. I don't know what happened that caused me to land flat on my ass, but I did. I just could not seem to find my groove. I guess it happens to the best of us when we are not prepared and have nothing to offer the world but a pocket full of dreams.

I learned something about dreams though; they are vast--endless, even. Dreams must also be cultivated. Even as I sailed from one crappy job to the next one, never quite fulfilled, I rested on my dreams. It wasn't uncommon for me to quit a job in a day if it didn't jive with who and what I thought I was at the time--this Proud Black Woman with Purpose and dreams for better. Yep, that was me, and I was resolute. But life took a look at me and laughed like I imagine it always does when young people scoff and refuse to listen to its dictates.

My life took on a zig-zag pattern when I was clearly trying to go in a straight line. My five year plan had been pushed back to ten years. By the tenth year, I stopped making plans altogether. And as I sit today in my soon-to-be-forty five space, I have found myself back at ground zero, starting over again. I have amassed some new tools which were fashioned out of past experiences and mistakes, and I am using them to rebuild. I'm still that Proud Black Woman with Purpose, but time and the elements have weighted and tarnished me, but thankfully not buried me.

I had to dream new and improved dreams and fortify them in concrete hard work. It takes a bit longer for them to settle into my foundation, but once they do, they're not going anywhere and I will use them to become the change that I want to see in me, in my community and beyond.

No, I didn't make good choices. I made different choices, but I am realizing that that's okay.

Choices by TaKaylla L. Gordon

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